The rumors concerning our sanity have been greatly exaggerated.

Coffee cup

The motivation behind all scientific discovery begins here . . .

October found me eager and excited, brimming with confidence and creativity for my work . . . at least during weekends. However, Monday mornings broke with the din of a funeral march, disturbing those few early morning dreams and ushering me upstairs upon the family couch while reruns of Law and Order painted visions of murder and desperation before sleep-filled eyes.  Waiting to leave the house proved the most trying, as my imagination, planting visions of screaming children and growling soccer moms, tried its damnedest to wrack my body with anxiety, upset my stomach and basically ruin the whole of my week.

Thankfully, I had Dunkin Donuts and their wonderful battalion of iced coffees to attack my flagging spirit and sleep deprivation.  Truly, the smell alone had a soothing effect; the extra-large galleon-sized container of liquid energy, a balm to my worries.  My imagination, drowning in legal stimulants, learned to behave, and I drove to school, happily contemplating Thanksgiving and Christmas break, only three months away.

The fallout from the field trip befell us the following Monday when Dr. T took us in the conference room for lunch. Slowly Ms. P spilled the story, downplaying our absence at the deli (a little) and deleting the abusive pot-smoker entirely (to be fair, the kids were not involved at all). Continue reading

A Year Teaching: Prelude

Honestly, I am a liar. This needs to be perfectly clear before we begin ere any misconceptions should occur. Throughout the last three years, many – if not all – of my tales, blog posts, have been . . . enhanced in some manner: names altered, timelines rearranged, conversations modified – by which I mean plucked from thin air. Mostly I do this in order to retain the humor or feelings of the situation which can never be recreated if I simply recite the events as they occurred. Continue reading

A Descent into Violence

My Little PonyStanding on the back seat, my little cousin, Molly, shoved her new book in my face: School for Unicorns.  My Explorer skidded to a halt in the driveway, its driver momentarily blinded by the cover of a thin purple book, adorned with sparkling horses reading and writing with only their hooves and no thumbs.  How in the world do they accomplish that trick? Consideration of this conundrum alone gave me reason to pause the car while traffic sped past my rear window.  Magic maybe, I thought, or . . . magnets.  Iron covers and magnetic hooves.


“So,” I asked Molly, “what do unicorns learn in school?”

“I dunno,” she shouted.  “I can’t read.”


“Probably learn to fly,” my sister Bree answered.

“Or eat elves . . .” Kasey – another cousin – chimed in from the back seat.  That proved another interesting prospect.  Carnivorous unicorns, with coats as black as obsidian and coiled horns red with blood and sinew, feeding from the shadows like vampires to spin their spells of necromancy and other dark magic.

“That’d be cool,” I muttered.  “There’s potential for interesting stories though unicorns are largely considered to be pure and ancient creatures.  They don’t fly either.  That’s the Pegasus.”

“See what you started . . .” Bree sighed to Molly.  “Here comes the lecture on weird and imaginary animals.”

As with most geeks, my mind is a sponge for anything . . . unusual, prompting a strong inclination to lecture others on said subjects whether they want to hear it or not.  To our credit these strange passions of ours so seldom appear in normal conversation we leap at every opportunity to recite Homeric verse or idylls of the gods.  Still, I could not afford to be predictable.  Not by my own sister at least.

“Of course, such chimeras are known to exist.  Take the My Little Pony show.  There they had unicorns with wings, kinda like the uber-horse.”

“You watched “My Little Pony?”  Kasey asked astonished.

“Silly!” Molly cackled ambiguously.  “Silly pony-head.”

“Yup, Mom was always a little protective of . . .”

“A little?” Bree scoffed.

“Irony.  . . . excessively protective of Pat and me; thus she forbid us from watching He-man or GI-Joe.  Fighting cartoons as Mom put it.  The spectrum of accessible toonage dwindled to Bugs Bunny, Pound Puppies, and My Little Pony.”

“You watched My Little Pony!” Kasey jeered.  A cruel but honest response.  My third and fourth grade male classmates would discuss shows and comics I had never seen: annals of gun-toting mercenaries and skull-faced wizards, battles of epic proportions.  During recess, I’d skip over to the girl’s side of the playground and swap stickers.  It was a rather confusing time for me.

Pony Movie“The movies too.  The original one with the blonde girl and then the purple ooze one, which flooded Pony Valley, turning all the horses into evil slaves.  Or something like that.”

The kids laughed.

“They weren’t too bad in truth.  Lots of cool fantasy stuff now and then.  In the first movie, the ponies transformed into dragons, which the evil sorcerer captured to pull his chariot.”

“What’s that?” Molly shouted.

“Speak normal, Murph,” Bree chided.  “She’s only in kindergarten.  Small words.”

“Oh, chariot?” I thought, consulting my mental thesaurus.  “Um . . . carriage?  Cart?”

“Old time car,” Kasey added helpfully.  Molly smiled.  I’m not sure if she understood but she stopped asking questions and began smacking herself in the head with the book.

“Not da Momma.  Not da Momma,” she screamed.

“Antique car.  Right, that works,” I frowned somewhat concerned for my little cousin, who giggled madly.  “But not Flintstone-old.  No feet-engine.”

“What about the dragons?” Paul, Molly’s brother, chimed from behind my seat.

“Oh yeah, they were pretty fierce . . . scary even.  Sharp black scales.  Teeth and claws like velociraptors.   Cool stuff, but of course the ponies saved the day.”

“How?” Paul asked.

“I like ponies,” Molly interjected.   “Meow!”

“Right . . . well, the normal tripe for girl shows back then.  The power of friendship and all that.  Plus, the blonde girl had this rainbow missile stored in her gold locket.  Opened it and soaked up all the evil like Lysol.”

“Rainbow rocket?” Bree scoffed.

“Whatever.  Think of the ‘Care Bear Stare’ only less gay.”

For those younger generations and those unaccustomed to 80’s cartoons, the Care Bears dwelt among the clouds, typically the thickest largest puffs in the sky.  As kids we would stare out the window during road trips, seeking out Care-a-lot or the‘Care Bear Cloud.’ Each of the bears, much like the Seven Dwarves had their own unique names and easy-to-discern personalities: Bedtime Bear, Cheer Bear, Grumpy Bear, Wish Bear, etc . . .  In their adventures, the Care Bears would foil the plots of Professor Coldheart, who would prey on unhappy children, entangled in various family and playground issues, problems that typically would unravel with a hug and the Care Bear Stare, where shapes would leap from the bears color-coded bellies.  Sometime through the episode, we – the viewer – would learn that ‘caring’ is the secret to happiness and high self-esteem.  Rather typical fare for the 80s actually.

Care BearsFrom my perspective, an already anxious and worried child, learning to exorcise ‘care’ from your life felt healthier than either hugs or rainbows, the former reserved only for grandmothers and latter – as I understood – churned out marshmallows for cereal.  Why, I thought, should we care about what others say about us, whether we threw a ball like a girl, or possessed one or two fewer friends than the cool kids.  The evening news and local video stores only served to reinforce our fears.  Rape, murder, fire, flood, Godzilla, demons, possessed dolls, ghosts, and homework: a never-ending supply of cares sneaking into your day-dreams and tormenting your nightmares.  Why should we care at all?  Because the Care Bears said so?  A rather Herculean quandary for a ten-year-old.  Yet with a simple shrug of the shoulders, it all disappeared. In life, the notable absence of omniscient all-loving teddy bears dwelling somewhere in the clouds compelled us to be stronger . . . or at least find more realistic escapes.  Something involving swords, wizards and falling anvils perhaps.

“Did you watch ‘Captain Planet’ when you were a kid?”  Kasey asked.

“Oh, don’t get me started with that pile of . . .” I stopped myself, suddenly realizing at Bree’s scowl the tickle in my throat.  “Ahem . . . sorry, not a fan.  I’d rather have my brain-cavity carved and hollowed out like a jack-o-lantern for the amusement of possessed carnival clowns than watch that recycled recycling propaganda.”

Much better.

“I always like the Hispanic dude,” Kasey continued.  “The guy with the Heart ring that talked to his monkey.”

“Dude, that’s probably the gayest thing I’ve heard in a long time and that’s coming from a guy that once owned an E-Z-Bake Oven.  My Little Ponies at least had dragons.  Little pink ones but . . . ”

Pink dragons?”

“Camouflage.  So it’s easier to hide the blood stains that way.”

“Ewww,” Bree groaned.

“Awesome,” muttered Paul and Kasey in awe.

“Meow!” Molly shouted from the backseat, twirling her unicorn book in the air.  Moments later, a purple blur like a small glittering axe flew across my mirror and into my cheek, proving that unicorns can indeed fly and that non-violence does not in any way immunize children from violence.  When the instinct does emerge (and it will), the edge of the knife is simply more subtle, undetected, veiled behind drifts of glitter, sequins and winged-pony stickers.


. . . dispersing the human population into nations, cultures, and warring soccer communities.

. . . dispersing the human population into nations, cultures, and warring soccer communities.

The fallout from the whole Tower of Babel debacle left man and his children rather befuddled.  As the dust settled, humanity severed all connection to those that did not speak and therefore think like themselves, dispersing the human population into nations, cultures, and warring soccer communities.  Of course, the children are the hardest hit.  Lacking the independence and foresight to band together, children remain a scattered genealogical nation of nomads resplendent in ages, height, and various levels of facial hair, adopting the customs and language of their parents, who – more likely than not – attribute their bairn’s misunderstandings to stupidity or laziness.

In truth, children possess a language all their own, one that has fairly escaped the notice of adults for several centuries.  In this case, as in many others, the confusion is mutual, and while much can be said of education and maturity, memory and spite, we might funnel centuries of misunderstandings, punishments, and pouting into two central archetypes: diversion versus responsibility.  Children cannot fathom why their elders choose CNN over Bugs and Daffy, and parents cannot come to grips with little Billy’s refusal to clean his room:

“Seriously, how difficult is it to carry your discarded jeans into the laundry or return your Legos to their plastic bins?  Come on guys, this is ridiculous.”

In retaliation, a child will shrug and say it wasn’t a priority at the time, cleaning would risk missing Wile E. Coyote on the receiving end of an Acme anvil.

Fortunately enough for my younger siblings and cousins, my maturity level has remained fairly constant since learning how to read Uncle Scrooge comics, age six.  It helps that I’ve never actually grown up.

Now my philosophy towards children is that one should never talk down to them, assuming their level of understanding is akin to that of a stone-deaf savage: “ME UNCLE MURPH.  YOU BRANDON.  BRANDON MUST EAT CE-RE-AL.  THE SQUARES ON PLATE.  YOU.  PLACE. ON. TONGUE.  CHEW.”

Nor talk to the child as you would a to a fat lady’s Chihuahua: “Oh wook at the widdle-liddile toesee-woesees.  Does that tickle?  Dooes dat tickle-wickle?  You are a good boy, yes you are.  Yes you are.  Have cookie-wookie . . .”  Frankly I cannot fathom how dogs put up with such nonsense, and children possess four-times the learning capacity.  Without the stimuli and addiction of video games (my little brother is learning Japanese on his DS), we’d be a nation of idiots.

In most instances, you’ll realize that children are smarter than you.  After babysitting my younger cousins, Paul and Molly, during a recent family vacation near the Outer Banks I discovered that conversation necessitates a vivid imagination and rather flexible self-image, unencumbered by adult-type barriers like self-esteem.

Taken from

Taken from here

“Murph-y,” Paul says to me, his voice breaking his words into different syllables.  “Wha-ta are those?”  He points out into the water, now sitting low between the muddy banks coating the Hilton Head Island inlet.  Hours earlier the boats and docks sat high upon the water, sea currents flowed freely through the reeds and grasses, swelling the marina like the locks in the Panama Canal.  Moments later as if someone pulled a plug, the currents shifted and the cove was drained; grasses reemerged cutting maze-like paths for boats, washing reeds and flotsam out to sea.  The water trickling out into the marsh was now flecked with white foam, which Paul pointed out and reminded me of powdered creamer floating insoluble in my morning coffee.

“Sea foam,” I answered, swinging his hand back and forth as we cross the footbridge.  The slightly rotted stench of sea and fish waft up from beneath, intoxicating senses far too long separated from the Carolina shore.


“I’m not sure how it’s formed,” I continue. “The churning of the waves combined with compounds in the water perhaps.”

“You use stra-ange words,” Paul giggles.  He then roars at a small crab scuttling across the pier.  It stops for a moment as if to consider him, and continues on its way.

The innocence of children is a widely held myth that in practice just does not hold water.  Those fabled illustrations you see in Mass missals or prayer books of the young cherub dressed in his Sunday’s best, hands clasped tightly in prayer, eyes gazing heavenward illuminated by some holy light are largely creatures of pure imagination, sprouting from the artist’s mind as much as a manticore or unicorn.  In most Masses children retain the same attention span as grandfather Dave, who sleeps through most of the service, snoring – loudly – and sputtering “damn bastards” through most of the homily.  Many parents cannot convince their little angels to sit still long enough to sleep or snore.  During the closing hymn, Paul closes his eyes and mimes the canter, tilting his head from side to side like Ray Charles at the piano.

hhi_pirate1Without a thought, Paul’s younger sister, Olivia, would have stomped on the crab, and then turned her face towards us with a smile that would have melted the heart of the Grinch.  Paul however is not always so fearless.  He remains fixed beside me as the crab disappears beneath the pier, joining its fellows among the barnacles.

“Barn-ankles?” Paul asked after I suggested as much.  The crustacean having vanished, he strode forward once again bravely.  An older couple passed us, smiling behind large sunglasses.  The man waved at us.

“How are you, young man?” he asked.

“Okey-dokey, old man,” Paul said, spreading his wide toothless grin.  The couple kept on walking, much too fast for even the hastiest apology.

Less than fantastical is a child’s sense of honesty, often harsh, cruel, and uncompromising.  Rather hilarious at times as well.  I once had the pleasure of sitting through a parent-teacher conference, hosted by a rather pompous math teacher (“I teach only the most exceptional students.”).  One of the children sitting just ahead of me bent over to her father’s wilting head and whispered: “Daddy, is that the guy you and Mommy think is a liberal prick?” I masked my laughter with a sudden and violent fit of coughing.

“Paul!” I chided as soon as we were out of earshot.  “You shouldn’t call people that they . . . they might get insulted.”

“Why?” he asked, widening his smile into a Cheshire grin.  “He was old.  What are barn-ankles?”

hhi_pirate2“Underwater crustaceans or possibly mollusks, I forgot which,” I responded quickly, welcoming the change in subject.  “They attach themselves to the bottom of boats and pilings under docks, like suction cups.  I believe they feed on tiny little animals that live in the shallow water.”

“You use lots of big words,” my little cousin comments matter-of-factly.  He swings my hand in his.  “I’m going to call you Mr. Smarty-pants.”

“Oh, um . . . thanks . . . uh bud.”

“No proba-lem, Mr. Smarty-Pants.”

Paul’s sister Molly has other names for me, titles far less flattering.  They say that children often ‘see’ or sense auras that emanate from others, subtle feelings or attitudes that remain ignored between less perceptive adults.  Several of my cousins can take a crying babe in their arms and sooth it in an instant; others’ presence will inevitably provoke tears.

Michael Critchon in his autobiographical memoir, Travels, discusses the notion and how if properly trained one can develop and see individual chakras or – as I understand it – our emotional and spiritual state.  Red for example is often associated with anger or frustration, orange with cleansing, and blue with sensitivity and calm, while sections of the body such as the crown (our center of wisdom) or throat (speech center) indicate the important chakra cores.  I’m not so sure how much of this I believe; certainly none of these beliefs are supported scientifically, yet part of me wants to accept the notion that we sense or adapt to one another in non-specific ways.  Moreover, children have the ability to perceive the world in a totally unique way; perhaps they are more receptive to feelings or auras.  If such is the case, I’m fairly alarmed at how my cousins consider me . . .

“I’m going to call you Mr. Cheesecake-Head.”

“I’m going to call you Mr. Cheesecake-Head.”

“Murph, I’m going to make up a nickname for you . . .” Molly giggles as we sit waiting in the movie theater.  Both my younger cousins retain a welcome interest and love for dinosaurs, an obsession I encourage in every way possible (I introduced Paul to Jurassic Park, both the toys and the movie, and both he and Molly have been hooked since).  Thus I thought they might enjoy the latest Ice Age movie at one of the local cineplexes, an ancient declining theater with cement floors, 1960s seating, and no pre-show commercials.  Arriving fifteen minutes before the show, the kids faced a dim room, a blank screen and little to distract them before the previews.

After two minutes crunching on popcorn, Molly turns in her seat and crouches to stare at me, into my eyes.  Suddenly she draws back and announces, “I’m going to call you Mr. Cheesecake-Head.”

Paul seated next to me disagrees.  Further down the aisle, my siblings silently dip into their pockets, sucking down hidden treats while the younger kids argue.

“No Molly, he’s Mr. Pumpkin Pie Head,” Paul shouts spitting half-chewed popcorn on my lap, “with candy stuck to his hair . . .”

“ . . . and grilled cheese stuck to his nose,” Molly giggles, her tiny teeth now red from Hawaiian punch, our shared jumbo cup tilted precariously in her lap.

“Uh guys,” I mutter.  “What’s with the desserts? All the pastry and candy-imagery?  I . . .”

“You’re Mr. Polka-dot Underwear Head with a nose and candy on your head . . .”

“. . . with gummy worms, Molly!  Gummy worms instead of hair.”  Molly topples in her seat, giggling to death.  I grab the jumbo-sized drink before it falls to the floor.

“Hold on guys, that’s much too much like Medusa,”  I suggest, trying to change the subject.  A noble quest if ultimately ineffective.

“Who’s that?” Molly sings.

“A monster in Greek mythology called a Gorgon who had snakes in her hair,” I begin, writhing my finger behind my head.  “They were cursed by Athena, but finally killed by Perseus son of . . .”

“Oo-kay, Mr. Smarty-pants.”

“Smarty-pants, smarty-pants,” Molly giggles, “with cheeseburger brains . . .”

“. . . and flip-flop head . . .”

“ . . . and lollipop ears.”

“Smarty-pants, smarty-pants,” Molly giggles, “with cheeseburger brains . . .”

“Smarty-pants, smarty-pants,” Molly giggles, “with cheeseburger brains . . .”

Paul removes his sandals and points.  “This is what your head looks like . . . hmmm,” he says pausing amidst his metaphor to sniff the soles.  “They smell like chocolate.  Wanna smell?”

“No, no thank you, bud.”  Molly has toppled over in her chair, giggling, her eyes wet with tears.

“. . . flip-flop head . . . la la la, lollipop ears. Murphy has lollipop ears . . . so funny.”

She’s still laughing when her body falls from her seat; Paul stomps his foot down on the floor and smells it again, scouring the theater perhaps for the chocolate.  Kevin returns his hand to his pockets and smiles.  After several frightening moments – Paul’s eyes dart to Kevin’s mouth just as Molly’s feet disappear beneath the seats – the lights dim and the previews start, which settles the kids . . . momentarily until the flick ends.  Who knows what terminology they’ll devise after the movie, their imaginations primed and tantalized with talking mammoths and dinosaur babies: Lizard Brain? Mammoth Belly?  Dino Doo-Doo Nose?  The possibilities . . . those horrible horrible possibilities were endless.

For the moment I settle back and relax, resting my flip-flop-shaped head on the chair and relishing the absence of communication from the seats beside me.   Halfway through the movie, Molly jumps into my lap, laying her head next to my lollipop ears, and falls asleep.  Paul leans on my shoulder and sucks his thumb.  A subtle message but an important one, I suppose.  Truth is core to communication; honesty cannot exist in a vacuum.  However, in a world saturated with words, speeches, and empty promises, the old clichés ring true.  Whatever age or generation our actions, even the most fragile gestures, speak the loudest.

However you choose to interact just remember that if you happen to wake Molly or Paul, then they’re all yours.  I’ll be communing with a glass of wine and good book for the rest of the evening.dino_table4

Modern Methusala

The tables at Bertucci’s had appeared swarming with high school kids and college freshmen. The only couple over thirty sat in the middle of the room, donning festive NASCAR top hats around gray heads and looking quite bewildered – a fact partly due to age, partly due to the environment, but mostly due to the hats. The rest of the nubile crowd chatted noisily. A group of high school girls held conference behind us, practicing imperfect similes:

“Sorry guys for being like so late. We like got held up by like a thousand lights on the way.”

“No one calls sprinkles Jimmies.”

“No one calls sprinkles Jimmies.”

The kitchen clattered and steamed with thin-crust pizza, delivered to tables where GameBoys sang with squealing tires and power-ups. Therefore, when Dasad and I later made our way into the TCBY, it felt a little strange to be standing in line with seven or eight gray-haired seniors.

“Are we old?” Dasad asked afterwards.

“No, I just think we picked a very mature ice cream parlor, that’s all,” I said digging into my peanut butter parfait.

“Do you think we’ll be doing the same thing twenty, thirty years from now? Hobbling to the nearby fat free yogurt stand for waffle cones and white chocolate soft serve?”

“. . . and jimmies,” I helpfully add.


“Jimmies, you know, the sprinkles you pour over ice cream.”

“That’s not the right word,” Dasad corrected. “No one calls sprinkles ‘jimmies.’”

“Sure they do. I just did.”

“It sounds like drug slang: ‘Give me a nickel bag of jimmies, man. The good stuff.’ ”

“No, its sprinkles, chocolate or rainbow colored. Jimmies.”

“One day I must learn this dialect you practice so well. Do you think we’ll be spendin’ our Fridays outside a TCBY?” Dasad asked for another attempt at focus. “For that matter, what will we be doing ten twenty years from now?

The question has merit. In the spring of my life, I constructed a bucket list of sorts, a short repository of aims and goals for the future.

  • Find true love
  • Save a life
  • Be a good brother, friend, husband
  • Get in shape
  • Travel the world
  • Win the Pulitzer Prize
  • Write a work of fiction that will stand the test of time (perhaps children’s lit)
  • Kill a dragon with my bare hands

dragonslayAlright perhaps not the most reasonable goals (especially that last one), but then your life’s pursuits should never be too modest or probable. It’s the impossibility of it all that makes it worth pursuing in the first place. As of this moment, I have yet to achieve . . . well anything. But although scratching off any item on my list may seem like carving Mount Rushmore with a toothpick, if you never give up, you’re that much closer than those who do.

Despite our accomplishments though, I do not believe people change that much. When she was a girl, my grandmother would travel downtown via street car to the movie theater, watch movies all day for a nickel. Today she spends her free time poised before Turner Classic Movies and field trips to see the latest Oscar nominees. My great-grandfather during Prohibition concocted booze in his bathtub. I recall his lavish parties, where beer and booze would fill the glasses of all guests, regardless of race, creed or legal drinking age.

Dasad and I arrived back home and nestled our aging bodies down in plush armchairs. The TV and the Xbox hummed into life. We see the familiar devastation, silhouetted against a blood red sky, a large rotating cog and a grinning skull where the sun once stood. Horde mode loads.

“I think we’ll probably be doing the same thing we’re doing now.” I pushed a few buttons, trying to remember which trigger button controlled the aim.

I could see ourselves, sitting in the same chairs, obsessed with the latest cooking show, playing the latest video game: virtual reality Tetris or Super Mario Multi-verse perhaps.

Dasad nodded. “Is that sad? Should we feel disappointed by that?”

“Oh well, more yogurt for us . . . "

“Oh well, more yogurt for us . . . "

“Well,” I considered. “We might be married with kids by then. That’d be cool. Plus when your fifty-something, you get to eat as much yogurt as you want, right?”

“Is that why so many old people were at TCBY?”

“Probably, because it’s soft and relatively fat-free, they suck it down,” I say, “Ooo . . . got boomed.”

“On it. Why’s that matter?” Dasad said navigating his character through the debris, where I lay bloody and crawling.

“Because old folk are more health conscious, and many have trouble chewing. You know, dentures and all that.” I wrapped my lips over my teeth and mimed someone gumming their vanilla mocha yogurt.

“So what you’re suggesting,” Dasad laughed, “is that when we’re fifty, we’re going to be sitting in the same chairs . . .”

“. . . well not the same chairs, perhaps something more comfortable and ergonomically satisfying . . .”

“Whatever . . . wasting our Saturday nights playing the same games – or the future equivalent,” he added before I could interrupt. “And all this will be ok, because we’ll be consuming vast amounts of fat free yogurt . . .”

“ . . . with chocolate jimmies . . .”

“Shut up, there’s no such thing . . . and teaching our kids and wives how to kill undead hordes, alien swarms, or subterranean invaders? Is that it?”

“Yes, only our wives are super hot, and my kids are showing your kids our shared manga collections and anime DVDs,” I smile. “Oh, that will be a grand day.”

“My kids,” Dasad frowns, “will never see your kids – unless it is Thursday. Thursdays are the days when my kids make your kids eat grass. We’ll call them green ‘jimmies.’”

“Hmph, try as you might, my kids will train early on, mastering their Tekken, Street Fighter, and Soul Caliber. By the time their twelve, they’ll have mastered all the world’s fighting styles rendered into the virtual world. They’ll be able to shoot fireballs from their hands.” My geekdom knows no bounds.

kawaii_hat“That’ll work well until my kids Asian genes kick in . . .”

“Ha, my kids will be exposed to so much manga and anime that they’ll be more Asian than you by the time the next Thursday rolls around.”

The game stalls for a moment or two. Desad walks into an empty room and suddenly finds himself out in the open surrounded by subterranean mutants. Mine is the sole character left. I run him towards the bridge for the final stand when the screen goes red: disconnected from server.

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” I mutter.

“That there’s not a Hell’s chance we’re ever going to reproduce.”

“It’s probably better for everyone, you know?” I say dropping my controller to the floor.

“Oh well, more yogurt for us, I suppose,” Dasad shrugged.

“And chocolate . . .”

“Shut it.”

Dropped Out

Well, I truly screwed up this time. Today was to be my first of class for the summer, a week-long nine to five excursion through the city’s museums and art collections, yet last Monday something happened: I started my summer reading. Typically at the beginning of each summer, I peruse the children’s collections at the local bookstores for a fun adventure series to explore for the next few months. Kevin currently was reading the first book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, The Lightning Thief, a book I recall one of my fellow classmates recommending a few months ago.

To make a long story short, I dove into the series devouring first four books within a few days. The series does a wonderful job of incorporating Greek myths into daily life, and I relished the characterizations of all the gods, goddesses, heroes, monsters, and legends. Every so often, I would halt my reading to peruse a section of the Odyssey or Ovid’s Metamorphosis, just to guess who the emerging monster or new god. The series even included a nice Potter-ian epic storyline and a blossoming romance. I got hooked, falling totally into “story sickness” once again.

Yet I realized last night that my excursion into the realm of myth cost me a great deal of time, necessary to prepare for the upcoming class. A twenty entry annotated bibliography required for Tuesday had not even been considered. A group presentation for Wednesday, after consulting my school email, had already begun. Sources had already been distributed, summarized, and analyzed. I had barely skimmed the four page proffered list of sources. The group had decided to meet tonight to discuss thoughts and powerpoint. Class had not even begun, and I was already failing.

Now two weeks prior, I had gazed briefly at the syllabus. Never a fan of academic journals/writing (ever since NIH the longwinded style simply puts me to sleep), the immense load of research and reading scared me a little, but I thought myself capable of finishing it all in a few hours time. After all between Iron Man and Speed Racer movies, Percy Jackson and my writing, learned journals seemed so much less important, too unexciting and dull for serious contemplation. Thus, although I have an excuse, it is not much of one.

Learning of the immense work, I had yet to complete sent a shockwave of anxiety through my stomach, similar to waking at 2AM to realize your toothpick bridge (25% of total grade) for Honors Physics may be due tomorrow. I nearly threw up. Then I decided to drop the class.

I now wake this morning, feeling somewhat refreshed, invigorated, and totally worthless. It is a strange feeling, sacrificing education for a children’s book. Yet sometime along the past week or so something else just became more important. Given the chance, I would probably do it again. No regrets; although I realize how irresponsible and stupid this makes me sound. In the end, I just could not help myself. Knowing how the current series ends, somehow eclipsed school work. The only problem now is what will I end up reading today . . .

Willy willy pumpkin-nilly

I was working late one afternoon at the lab years ago, when this poem popped into my head. The day had grown long; five hours can drag waiting to harvest protein. Boredom, acetone, and smell of fresh bacterial broth can have a strange effect on the mind, particularly one driven to childish rhyme. Like a true Seuss-stanza, dislodging the simple echoed rhythm from my ears proved nigh near impossible. Drugs, flames, liquid nitrogen all proved futile. Thus rather than ignore more safety restrictions, I decided to write the poem down and share it with others instead . . .

Willy willy pumpkin-nilly
What a great fool you are
Willy willy pumpkin-nilly
What a total fool you are

You dance on your hands
And eat with your feet
You bray just like a dog
And mew for your treat.

Willy willy pumpkin-nilly
What an honest fool you are

You bathe in the sink
Throwin’ money away
Like a child, a wee child
Sleeping, smiling, at play.

Willy willy pumpkin-nilly
What a good fool you are.

You mix with the sick
And converse with the cursed
Always wishin’ on stars
Always putting others first.

Willy willy pumpkin-nilly
What a good man you are.

You never speak rude
Foolish simpleton I see.
Yet kind, loyal and true
Knowing just who you can be

Willy willy pumpkin-nilly
What a great man you are.

Just a few thoughts

Lately I have been feeling under the weather. Not physically sick, but just irritable, tired, and impatient. For those who know me, this shift in mood contrasts greatly with my normally optimistic (translation: annoying) self. Usually when I get this way, my body is telling me that I need to work out a bit. Nothing extreme, just an hour to an hour and a half of running or lifting will suffice to revive my spirits from their more somber depressing funk.

Yet my body’s method of communication intrigued me. In religion class, they taught us that suffering is a reaction to evil; in psychology, they taught us that anxiety is a reaction to stress; in gym they taught us that pain is a reaction to physical harm – which usually concluded my reaction to gymnastics. Thus, I discovered my body’s signals for languor: depression. And the immediate remedy for its cessation: exercise.

Or if funds allow, a visit to the bookstore . . . Or if time and money allows, a road trip to an unknown place.

For those of you, who have never ever ventured out to a Renaissance festival, I have three words for you: boostiers and bread bowls . . . Ok, that may have been four words, but if you happen to be scraping chicken and rice out of a bread bowl while young a lady trots by in a short period dress and a boostier, you too might discard some first-grade math to chisel that image in your mind’s temple. Albrecht Dürer clearly missed out on the medieval centerfold market; St. Jerome just does not possess the hips.

Seriously though, forgoing the tantalizing costumes, Renaissance festivals excite me each year. The fair grounds are set among the trees, the food tastes delicious, and the shows are always filled with bawdy quasi-British humor. With hot apple cider in hand, we can sit beneath several large oaks and watch short Shakespeare plays or shop for goblets and immense six-foot long swords. Although, personally I pass on the period weaponry; after twenty-five years on the job as big brother to seven siblings, I need not buy fuel for a possible funeral pyre. My voice creaks and groans from years of screaming lengthy portents:

“Sean! Do not play with the sheet-metal! You’ll cut off a finger!”

“Kevin! Stop playing with the bug-zapper! You’ll fry your tongue off!”

“Alright just so we’re clear: no one is ever EVER to attempt anything Macaulay Culkin does in this movie, ok? If you do and manage to survive unscathed, afterwards I will kill you. So Ryan, please return Mom’s good ornaments to the box. Thank you.”

Originally my parents attempted to completely secure the house: bubble-wrapping all the table corners, buying only dull knives, corking the electric sockets with plastic plugs, and vacuuming daily so no dead bee or wasp become the next appetizer to a crawling infant (that reminds of the old line in To Have and Have Not:

Eddie: Say, was you ever bit by a dead bee?
Beauclerc: I have no memory of ever being bit by any kind of bee.
Slim: (interjecting) Were you?
Eddie: You’re alright, lady. You and Harry’s the only one that ever…
Morgan: Don’t forget Frenchie.
Eddie: That’s right. You and Harry and Frenchie. You know, you got to be careful of dead bees if you’re goin’ around barefooted, ’cause if you step on them they can sting you just as bad as if they was alive, especially if they was kind of mad when they got killed. I bet I been bit a hundred times that way.
Slim: You have? Why don’t you bite them back?
Eddie: That’s what Harry always says. But I ain’t got no stinger.

Yet somehow, the kids always seem to avoid the protective coating usually by stepping outside now and then. Though convinced that complete security is impossible – particularly in Nature – I avoid placing long sharp pointy-daggers within reach of small children and Kill Bill-enthused teenagers. The way I see it, if protecting my family from prowlers requires the implementation of a medieval sword, if an army of undead ninja prowlers lie in wait outside my door, forcing me don my authentic Grendel-skin, Son of Cain cape, and to unsheathe my authentic Beowulf dragon-hide sword, then I am probably doomed anyway. Luckily enough that will not happen. From my experience, the undead masses just are not that organized.